Printer Friendly

WASHINGTON STATE TRIAL LAWYERS ASSOCIATION: WASHINGTON SUPREME COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF CONSUMERS IN AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE CASE

 SEATTLE, Feb. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- In an important victory for consumers, Washington's Supreme Court has ruled that health insurers cannot refuse to pay for medical care by requiring that an individual's auto insurance "uninsured motorist" coverage pay for medical benefits, the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association (WSTLA) said today.
 Increasingly, local health insurers, including King County Medical Blue Shield, Blue Cross, Group Health and Snohomish County Physicians Corp., have "excluded" payments for medical bills if a person injured in an automobile accident has uninsured motorist coverage that is triggered by an accident.
 Uninsured motorist coverage is intended to pay for an injured person's medical care, lost wages, and pain and suffering when the other driver in a vehicle accident is at-fault but has no automobile liability insurance, or is underinsured. But an increasing number of health insurers have, in recent years, insisted that the uninsured motorist coverage be used first to pay for medical bills, rather than for lost wages or pain and suffering.
 The Supreme Court said such a requirement is illegal and contrary to public policy because it denies an injured person the ability to collect insurance proceeds for non-medical damages (i.e. lost wages or pain and suffering) which the injured party would receive had the at-fault party been insured.
 The court said that if health insurers were allowed to continue such a practice, the end result would be that injured persons with uninsured motorist coverage "would have less money for their injuries than they would have received had the at-fault parties had liability coverage... That result would be antithetical to the policy favoring full compensation of innocent automobile accident victims."
 The court said the purpose of uninsured motorist coverage "is to provide the insured with a second layer of protection which 'floats' on the top of recovery from other sources." Thus, a health insurer cannot unilaterally require that uninsured motorists benefits be applied to pay for medical costs, the court said.
 "This court decision benefits millions of consumers in the state of Washington," said Hal Hodgins, president of the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the plaintiffs. "WSTLA got involved in this case because of a concern that health insurers, in an attempt to cut costs, were taking unfair advantage of people who, in good faith, were paying for uninsured motorist benefits but ending up getting the short end of the stick."
 Maria Diamond, an attorney with Levinson, Friedman, Vhugen, Duggan & Bland, said the ruling "is one of broad public importance involving the insurance rights of the average citizen. The Supreme Court absolutely did the right thing."
 Diamond represents one of two plaintiffs in the case, Deborah Hogsett, who was widowed when her husband, Ross Hogsett, was killed in an automobile accident.
 The driver of the vehicle which killed Hogsett was uninsured. Before his death, Hogsett incurred medical bills of $34,277. His automobile insurance carrier, Viking Insurance, paid the first $10,000 of medical bills under Hogsett's personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
 But Hogsett's health insurer, Snohomish County Physicians Corp., refused to pay the $24,277 balance of medical bills, arguing that Hogsett's uninsured motorist coverage of $25,000 should instead be applied to pay the medical bills.
 The Supreme Court ruled that Snohomish County Physicians' position was contrary to this state's strong public policy that innocent accident victims injured by uninsured or underinsured negligent drivers receive full compensation.
 -0- 2/18/93
 /CONTACT: Hal Hodgins of Washington State Trial Lawyers Association, 206-447-1560; or Maria Diamond of Levinson, Friedman, Vhugen, Duggan & Bland, 206-624-8844; or Dean Katz of Royer Katz Communications, 206-292-0057, for Washington State Trial Lawyers Association/


CO: Washington State Trial Lawyers Association; Levinson, Friedman,
 Vhugen, Duggan & Bland ST: Washington IN: INS SU:


LM-JH -- SE008 -- 8175 02/18/93 18:08 EST
COPYRIGHT 1993 PR Newswire Association LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Feb 18, 1993
Words:633
Previous Article:COLUMBIA GAS: ENERGY TAX WILL INCREASE NATURAL GAS BILLS
Next Article:HEALTH IMAGES, INC. ANNOUNCES 1992 RESULTS
Topics:


Related Articles
WASHINGTON STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: HIGH COURT RULING ALLOWS AG ACTION AGAINST INSURANCE COMPANIES
WASHINGTON STATE SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS DECISION THAT INSURANCE COMPANIES MUST PAY FOR ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANUP
New York's insurance regs struck down by court.
Court opinions differ on diminished value.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters